About Matt LeBlanc
I get asked a lot about how I got my start as an artist.
They say truth is stranger than fiction… here is my truth.
The store, the box, and the man in black
I never went to art school. I loved to paint when I was a kid, but I went to university thinking I would become an engineer. That lasted for a short time. After my first semester I was far more attracted to the marketing courses I was taking as optional curriculum than the numbers of engineering. So I switched over and graduated from the marketing program. Eventually I got an account executive position at a Moncton advertising agency and for about five years all was going well. But everyday I would pass by a brightly painted art supplies store on my way to work. Sometimes waiting for the traffic light to change I would wonder what it was like in there, and thinking I should stop in. Once, as I was daydreaming about learning how to paint, I saw a sign about art courses. “Art class, at my age? Art classes are for kids and retired people. I don’t know if I’d want to take an art class… maybe I could teach myself.” The honking horns brought me back to traffic and I was off, thinking no more about it.
Except one day I found myself veering off my usual path, and right into the parking lot. Before I knew it, I was in the store and asking for help. The sales clerk wasn’t very helpful, but then an older man dressed all in black, came over to help me. In just a few minutes he taught me about brush quality, paint palettes, and palette knives, and paint. And then he was gone. When I took my purchases to the sales clerk I asked about this mysterious man and she said she’d never seen him before.
I wonder to this day if this man in black was real, or sent just to help me get started, because I would have just walked out that door if it weren’t for him. When I got home, I remembered a box that I had tripped over the day before that was addressed to my wife. It turns out that this box was a painting she had bought from a New York artist on eBay for our soon to be dream house. When she showed me the abstract painting I was drawn to the texture, the colour, even the smell. I was hooked.
I told her about the art supplies I had purchased that day, and that I was going to play around with painting. She didn’t take me seriously, until I showed her my first painting. Well, even then I had to show her my painting area in the basement before she believed that I was able to create a piece of art that she actually liked.
I started selling my paintings to friends, and word began to spread. Within five years of first picking up the brush and palette and nearly killing myself with two full-time jobs, the art job won over, and I officially became Matt LeBlanc, Full-time Artist.
I think life puts things into your path: like a store, a box, and a man in black. It’s up to us to heed the signs.
Welcome to Matt LeBlanc’s Art Philosophy 101.
First of all, I don’t believe that an artist has to starve, or suffer for his or her art. What I do believe is that you have to put in the work. There is a saying about becoming a master after 10,000 hours of practice. This much I know is true.
I also believe that you have to be able to market yourself to make it in our world today. Since I started painting in 2007, I’ve become one of the well-known and appreciated artists in Atlantic Canada and have sold over 3,000 paintings. I used the techniques and skills I honed in my 10 years in advertising agencies — yes, I paint what I love, but I also believe that I’ve created the most awareness and demand by getting into the mind of the art buyer. Most people buy art to fit into their home… only the true collector makes their home the gallery to show off their art.
Another thing I believe is that you’ve got to think of yourself as a brand. I’ve done some pretty innovative marketing and branding promotions in my time as an artist. I’m not afraid to take chances, but my daring is also based on giving my clients what they want. By moving beyond the traditional route to success, I’ve not only created a following, but also an actual fan base — with over 25,000 people. My art is instantly recognizable in homes and offices locally and has appeared on home decorating shows nationally on the HGTV channel. Well known people like designer Debbie Travis and a couple of Dragons from the popular CBC TV show Dragon’s Den own pieces of my art as well.
I think I work almost as hard at branding myself as I do at painting. In 2012 I was honoured to receive an Excellence in Innovation award from the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce and the prestigious Paul Harris Award from the Dieppe Rotary Club.
One of my key branding platforms is taking customized art commissions. I visit the homes of my clients, or ask for photos of the space that the painting will be placed. Then I take into consideration the buyer’s personal style, colour preferences, and even style preferences. Each commission becomes a statement not only of my creativity, but also of the buyer’s personality and taste.
Since I chose not to follow the traditional path of having my work shown in galleries, I had to create a forum for my art. I needed a venue that would attract a broader audience — one that loves the arts, but might not call themselves art collectors. I wanted to show them that art can be approachable and appreciated by everyone. So I created an annual show that blends all types of art, called Matt LeBlanc FUSION. I did the show in a smaller venue for two successful years, blending art and entertainment on stage to a very receptive audience. In those shows I’ve done everything from showcasing local music and dance talent to painting original works of art on custom-designed gowns.
My “outside the boundaries” style of abstract art, have also allowed me to create art on clocks, quality furniture, and even my own personal coffee brand label.
In 2013 I took my biggest leap and put on a show that was still a fusion of art, music, dance, and fashion, but became a SHOW with ART and STORY. It was a magical night to a sell-out crowd of over 1 000 people. Taking FUSION to a level that could rival Casino New Brunswick’s big acts was huge for me. My drive for paint outside the lines kind of creativity will keep it fresh and completely unexpected each year.
Part of my psychological makeup is that I am always pushing myself to do more, be more, and experiment more. In my art I sometimes go back to the beginning and teach myself new techniques. They aren’t always a success, but I believe that it is out of making mistakes that the next great thing will come.
It’s also very important to me to give back to my community, so I donate paintings to charity events on a regular basis. I’ve probably given well over $100,000 in artwork to various charities in my career as an artist.
In 2012 I developed a way to channel my giving into an organization called the Mado's Gift Foundation. I started this foundation in memory of my sister Madeleine who died from leukemia at the age of five. This foundation’s focus is to put a smile on the face of local children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses by giving them gifts or providing financial help to make their life easier.
What lies ahead of me I can never be sure. The beauty of abstract art is that I never know what I’m going to paint until I actually paint it. I usually have a good idea of the primary colours I will use in the piece, but the rest is usually unknown. It’s purely done in the moment — that’s why I love to paint abstract art. I never force the brush, I let the brush lead the way.
My philosophy of art:
I believe that art doesn’t sell itself; it is part of my job as an artist to make it desirable.
I believe that by also showcasing other forms of art, I am doing my small bit to enrich the lives of a world starving for beauty.
I believe in paying it forward by giving back.
I believe I will always push the boundaries and challenge myself to learn, take risks, and grow as an artist.
But mostly, I’m very thankful that I have the talent to paint.